South Carolina suspends starting QB Mitchell

Updated: September 14, 2006, 7:37 AM ET
Associated Press

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- South Carolina starting quarterback Blake Mitchell was arrested after a bar fight Wednesday and has been suspended from playing.

Mitchell was booked at Richland County jail for simple assault, a misdemeanor, police said. He was released Wednesday afternoon following a bond hearing and left the jail around 7:30 p.m. ET, avoiding reporters who waited for him at the main entrance.

A Columbia police report said the 21-year-old Mitchell punched Kylan Ertzberger in the left eye during a fight in a bar near the university early Wednesday.

Ertzberger told police Mitchell approached him about 1:45 a.m. and "initiated a verbal confrontation." Ertzberger told Mitchell "he did not like that the subject tried to enter [the bar] with underage girls."

After Wednesday's practice, coach Steve Spurrier said he wanted to wait for all the facts to come in before judging Mitchell's actions.

While suspended from playing, Mitchell will remain on the team, Spurrier said.

"I was disappointed he got into a little fight. If he was out with his girlfriend and he wasn't drunk or whatever ... that's what college kids do," Spurrier said. "I went to college once. But we were in before 1:30. In our day, 12 was a late night."

The team does not have a Tuesday night curfew, but players are encouraged to be in around midnight, Spurrier said.

Mitchell, a junior, joined the program in 2003, redshirted his freshman year and started 11 games last season.

This season, Mitchell completed 28 of 44 passes for 247 yards with one interception and no touchdowns for the Gamecocks (1-1), who play Wofford on Saturday.

Even before the arrest, Mitchell probably would not have played this weekend because of injuries he suffered in South Carolina's first two games, Spurrier said.

The coach said he was not ready to announce who would replace Mitchell at quarterback for the start of the Wofford game. The backup quarterback is freshman Chris Smelley, although senior receiver Syvelle Newton has thrown 139 passes in his Gamecock career.

At Wednesday's bond hearing, Mitchell had little to say, and the magistrate ordered him to have no contact with the alleged victim.

A message left for Ertzberger was not immediately returned.

Mitchell's attorney Neal Lourie said Mitchell turned himself in as soon as he heard about the charges. "He seems like he's doing very well, very fine at this point," Lourie said.

It's not the first time a starting South Carolina quarterback has gotten into trouble. In 1993, Steve Taneyhill was arrested for underage possession of beer at a party the night after the Gamecocks defeated Georgia 23-21 in Athens.

He pleaded no contest and performed 30 hours of community service in exchange for having the charge removed from his record.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press